My ten years of cannabis growing experience sometimes locks you into a box of comfort. Over that ten years I’ve become extremely adept at growing cannabis in soil with LED grow Lights. That’s just my thing, it’s what I’ve learned, tuned and become comfortable with. There aren’t many surprises or issues left for me that I haven’t already experienced in the realm of growing in soil.
I’ve always had an interest in hydroponic growing but was always too afraid to step out of my comfort zone and start exploring this whole new grow option. That is until recently when I could no longer ignore all the requests that I receive for a primer on growing cannabis hydroponically. So that’s just what I’m going to do. I’ve started my journey into growing cannabis with hydroponics and I’ve made a lot of notes along the way to help you out on your adventure.
The truth About Growing in Soil
Growing in soil seems like the simple answer when you start to think about growing your own cannabis. It’s cheap, you’ve grown other plants in soil before, maybe you feel comfortable with it. But the truth about soil is that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. There are serious limitations and pitfalls that can befall you if you grow cannabis in soil. As a beginner you may think it’s less to deal with then using all the piping, pumps and so on that are required for a hydroponic grow. That’s how I saw it and I’m sure that’s how a lot of you see it. I’m going to explain way you shouldn’t be afraid of hydroponics and why it will simplify your grow.
Soil Has Limitation and Pitfalls
Soil, simple, natural and available; all true but soil comes with it’s challenges as well. For example, a beginner grower tends to either over or under water their cannabis plants. Beginner growers also tend to use the wrong soils or mixtures to grow in which exasperates the over and under watering issue. I’m not just saying that to be a jerk, I was a person with chronic watering issues when I started out and because of that I killed a load of seedlings and even adult cannabis plants.
Soil limits the amount of oxygen absorbed by the roots of your cannabis plants. Every time you water your plants the amount of oxygen the roots can absorb is reduced. Over watering causes your plant to slowly suffocate. Soon your plants will have root rot and the whole plant is as good as compost. Can you see the inefficacy here with soil? Even if you water your plants correctly there is still a limitation to the amount of oxygen that can be absorbed which limits plant growth.
Super Charging a Cannabis Grow with Hydroponics
Hydroponics is all about maximizing the amount of oxygen the roots can come in contact with while still providing as much water and nutrients as need by the cannabis plant to promote accelerated growth. With hydroponics the water and nutrient mix is oxygenated using an air pump and sandstone’s like those used in aquariums.
The mix of nutrients that is fortified in the water is a mixture of maco and micro nutrients which provide the cannabis plant with its nutritional requirements from vegetation stage to flowering. There are six different types of hydroponics setups and four of those options are great for growing cannabis. Each system provides water, oxygen and nutrients in a slightly different way.
The six types of hydroponic systems are:
- Wick System
- Water Culture System
- Ebb and Flow
- Drip Systems
- Nutrient Film Technique
- Aeroponic system
I’ll just cover the best systems for cannabis since that’s what this blog is about.
Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System
One of the more commonly used setups is called the Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System. It’s a very simple mechanism in which the roots are temporarily flooded with oxygenated, nutrient rich water and then that water drains back into the main reservoir to be used again in the next cycle. This ebb and flow movement of the water is driven by a pump located in the main reservoir and gravity. A simple timer controls the pump which you can set for regular cycles. The most often used grow mediums for this system are rocks, gravel or granular rockwool.
Drip Fed Hydroponic System
The most common hydroponic system for growing cannabis is a drip-fed system. It works simply by pumping water up from the reservoir through a series of tubes which end up emptying near the base of the plant. The run-off is then captured below to be used again. The drip system uses the same water and nutrients which is oxygenated for maximum feeding.
Nutrient Film Technique: Constant Root Uptake
This hydroponic system is the system most people picture in their head when they hear the word hydroponics. It’s a very commonly used option and grows vegetables very well and well yes cannabis too. This mechanism uses a pump to run oxygen rich, nutrient rich water constantly through a root canal before it drains back into the reservoir where the mixture is again oxygenated and used again. What’s neat about this system is there is no growing medium. The plants are suspended over the root canal in plastic baskets so that the roots hand in the constant flow of freshly oxygenated nutrient solution.
Aeroponic system: The Fancy Hydroponic System
The Aeroponic system is the most advanced hydroponic system. Here, plants are suspended in baskets above the root tray with roots hanging down. A pump is then used to force water out of small holes causing a mist to form and cover the roots of your cannabis plants. The mist is water that has been oxygenated and nutrients added to it. Any run off is collected and dropped back into the main reservoir. This Aeroponic system is really where it’s at for growing cannabis but will cost a bit more then the other systems I’ve gone over. Expect a shorter growing time and healthier plants then the other hydroponic options.
Benefits of Hydroponic Grow Systems
Not everyone will care about this but folks that live out in the desert will. On average a cannabis plant grown in soil will require upwards of five gallons of water to grow it from a seedling to finished flowering cannabis plant. This is contrasted by an average of one gallon of water per plant when using hydroponics.
Hydroponics Will Grow Your Plants Bigger, Better and Faster
Since the oxygen, nutrient and water transport system is so much more efficient than dumping water in soil and hoping that the roots dry out enough between feedings to oxygenate your cannabis plants will grow more vigorously. The efficiency of feeding and oxygenation promotes faster plant growth and THC strength.
Since your plants will grow bigger you are going to experience larger bud yields and higher amounts of THC. This is great right? Well it does all that and shortens the grow time of a mature plant by about 2 to 3 weeks as well. Bonus!
Hydroponic Grows Help Reduce Disease and Pests
Any grower of cannabis or fine vegetables will tell you that disease and pests are your number one enemy. Rates for these issues increase when soil is used as the medium for plants. This is because:
- Soils can be contaminated with fungus or larva when you purchase it
- Soils hold moisture and stagnant moisture which increases the chances of mold or mildew
- Bugs love soil as a place to grow and hatch
Taking your grow indoors means you’ve taken complete control over your cannabis plants environment and can now control all aspects of the grow from light and food to pest and disease control and reduction. Hydroponics can help your grows so much but lazy grow room hygiene can increase the odds of infection or pests.
Hydroponics Works and Is Affordable
So, by now you’re pretty stoked about getting setup with an indoor hydroponic grow. It’s been proven to be effective and easy, but can you believe it’s also cheap? There is an initial start up cost to hydroponics, but the equipment is reasonably priced and will last a life time. Very little maintenance is needed to keep these systems in good working order.
I must admit when I started out on this test I was scared as heck about it. I stressed out for a long time before giving in to the notion of testing out hydroponics. Like you, I see it and it looks confusing and complicated. I feared losing a crop of precious cannabis that I’ve cared for since it was a baby!
After doing a load of reading and setting up my test Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System I can tell you that it’s really not a big deal at all. Hydroponics gives a cannabis grower the biggest advantages and reduces grow risks greatly. As you remove negative factors from the growing equation such as pests, mold and over watering and add positive factors such as oxygenated nutrient rich water the answer gets very clear, you must start working towards understanding hydroponics.